A blog of assorted Norsery

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The Viking Experience by Marjolein Stern and Roderick Dale

The Viking Experience

The Viking Experience is a general history of the Vikings by Dr Marjolein Stern and yours truly, and I am excited that it is now available through Amazon. Far be it from me to praise this book overmuch but I am really quite pleased with how it turned out. It is in full colour with plenty of illustrations and comes in a slipcase with removable inserts illustrating important documents of the time. Rather than blather on about it, I shall let the publisher’s blurb speak for me:

‘From the remote and unforgiving landscape of northern Europe, the Vikings voyaged to far-flung areas of the world with extraordinary consequences. The Viking Experience examines the origins, explorations and settlements of these seafaring people, exploring their impact on the world as colonizers, craftsmen, traders and state-makers. This highly illustrated book provides a revealing portrait of the Vikings’ incredible legacy with a collection of facsimiles and translations of rare documents, including:

  • Drawings and photographs from archaeological dig sites
  • An extract from the Anglo Saxon Chronicle, describing a Viking raid on Lindisfarne
  • The Skálholt map that marks Norse discoveries in the western Atlantic
  • A page from the Stockholm Codex Aureus, an illuminated manuscript that was looted by the Vikings
  • The Vinland map showing Norse exploration of America as an example of recreated Viking history’

Hammer of the Gods – Some Thoughts

Hammer of the Gods

Hammer of the Gods

dir. by Farren Blackburn (Vertigo Films, 2013)

The plot

Steinar must travel to find the macguffin (his brother) and return to his dying father with it. In doing so he loses his humanity and becomes a hardened warrior fit to be king.

See the trailer here.

The film

The film opens with a shot of a young boy on a beach. He sees a Viking ship sailing out of the fog, its sail billowing and its oars out. I did not count them, but it looked like about ten or fifteen oars on each side, so a minimum crew of twenty. This being the case, why did only six warriors emerge onto the cliff top to fight the Saxon levies? For that matter, why was the ship obviously under full sail when the oars were being used too? These things jarred at the start, and this sense of wrongness continued when the fight began and I noticed that none of the warriors had a shield and that several of the weapons were blatantly anachronistic. The lack of shields is an issue all the way through the film until the very last scene. Other issues included the ‘Saxons’ dressed like ninjas with skull face masks and the blue-painted cave people at the end. Then there was the ignorance of what a runestone was; Steinar had to ask what it was. Finally, there are few female characters in the film and almost all are completely incidental to the plot. Although advertised as a Viking film set in 870-71, this film quite clearly was not that. In reality it is a fantasy quest film and the setting need not have been England in the ninth century, because the events were quite generic with nothing that made it specifically Viking in nature.

Having got the complaints out of the way, I can address the rest of the film. The plot is minimal, as described above. After the initial direction of the action towards finding the macguffin, things just seemed to roll from one fight to the next with little explanation of who or why things were happening. It reminded me of a highly structured D&D adventure where all travelling is specifically to get the characters to the next plot device / encounter with the baddies. As the film progressed, the pace picked up until the ending, which was reminiscent of Apocalypse Now. Elliot Cowan as Hakan the Ferocious even seemed to be trying to get the look and feel of Brando as Colonel Kurtz. It had a certain inevitability about it from start to finish. At no point did I wonder if Steinar would die or fail in his quest. There was no real tension or even concern for the characters. Instead the momentum of the film kept me watching, helped by the stunning Welsh scenery amid which it was filmed, and the quality of the cinematography which was pretty good. The casting was also reasonably good, with the main characters giving decent performances. One point that tickled me was the use of a smattering of Old English dialogue. That was definitely a plus point.

Overall this film was not a total waste of time. Don’t expect a historically accurate epic, high art or even great cinema, because this film lies firmly in B-movie territory, but, if heroic gore-laden action adventure is your thing and you can accept the thin plot then you may enjoy it.

Ragnarok: A new beginning

Out of the leaves of Yggdrasill this blog emerges reborn after the turmoil of last weekend’s fight between the gods and the giants. Well, assuming that anything in Old Norse writings actually stated that Ragnarok would take place on 22nd February 2014 that is. A Clerk of Oxford writes enough on the topic that I do not need to. Judith Jesch’s blog post about the meaning of Ragnarok is worth reading too. Much better than the Jorvik Viking Centre’s publicity stunt.

So, apart from referencing other people’s posts what’s the point of this post? It is a statement of intent for the future. It’s been a pretty rough few years for a variety of reasons that I shall not go into, but life seems to be taking a more positive turn and with it I feel that this blog needs a new beginning too. Last week I finally submitted my thesis, so now I await my viva and whatever may follow. I also had The Story of the Vikings published which was co-authored with my good friend Marjolein Stern. This edition has been specially produced for The Works. The proper edition is titled The Viking Experience and is due to be published in March. It came as quite a surprise to have a friend tell me that the book was already in The Works, when I thought I would have to wait a month still to see it. As part of last week’s new beginning, I also filmed a slot for a forthcoming documentary series called Ancient Black Ops. The series will look at elite warriors of the past, and I was called in for the programme on berserkir. Exciting stuff.

I now plan to devote myself to posting at least once a month on this blog. I have a lot of material I can and wish to cover and it only needs me to make time for it, so watch this space and I shall try not to leave you hanging.

Encouraging the nippers

I got involved with a small project for the Beeb over the summer. It was good fun and I am rather chuffed with how it turned out. Hopefully it will encourage more people to be interested in Vikings. Follow the link below to see how it turned out for yourself:

Hands on History site

Viking Quiz

So you think you know about Vikings? Try this quiz and find out if you really do!

Viking Quiz

It’s not as easy as you might think.

Scandinavia and the World

This is not really a medieval post as such, although there is some medieval content. Rather, it is a look at how Scandinavia views the rest of the world. Well, sort of. Scandinavia and the World is a webcomic that I enjoy. It is written by a Dane and expresses the Scandinavian view of the rest of the world rather well, as well as the rivalries between the Scandinavian countries. Clicking the picture below will take you to the start of the archive and a trip through the mind of a Dane. Most excellent!

Brat-halla

One area of research that interests me is the Viking in popular culture. I generally look upon it as an excuse to watch Noggin the Nog and call it research. Anyway, leaving Noggin for now, I thought to point you to some webcomics with a Norse theme. This will be an intermittent series about comics I have encountered and enjoyed, for whatever reasons. If it has a Viking or Norse theme, there is a good chance I shall be interested somewhere along the way!

This week we have Brat-halla. What was Asgard like when the gods were still children? And what did Odin’s eye get up to after it had been plucked out? This comic seeks to answer that question. It is currently on hiatus, but you can go back and read the archives. I think that is worth it.

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